Monday, March 11, 2013

The Preacher Trembles Sometimes

"Don't preach at me!"

How many times have you heard that used in a TV drama - in heard - even said it - in real life? Have you ever heard anyone say "Please preach to me."?

Didn't think so.

So preachers have been calling the act of preaching something else for many years. Call it a "message", "talk", or whatever you call it, fact is that when you step up in front of a bunch of people and present yourself as having a message for them involving the Scripture, it's preaching. But there's preaching and there's PREACHING.

My hope/intent/expectation when I prepare is that I will help people understand or discover what God has placed there in the text, in the context it was written, applied to the time we live in today. Yes it's one sided, but it's one half of a conversation with the other half hopefully between the hearer and the Holy Spirit. I use humor, illustrations from life in general and my own life, and sometimes video to help people bridge the gap between the Word and their lives.

I've studied preaching at two seminaries, continued studying it personally and in cohorts of other preachers, and read thousands of sermons. Yes, thousands. Most of the giants of the past and the present day preachers have been examined for fidelity to the text, construction of their messages, and means or method of delivery. Over the years I have changed to be more text based, because I felt it was where the Holy Spirit would have me work.

One of the things I wish I could change about myself is that I am super critical of my preaching. I never think I have enough preparation time (especially now that I teach fulltime +), and I am working on every Sunday's sermon up to the last minute. Once it's over, I think of things I could have said better, things I could have left out or put in, and wonder whether I did the best I could.

Most of the time it ends there, and life rushes in and the new week opens and Sunday is in the rear view mirror. But not this week. I preached on Saturday too. It was a memorial service for someone I had never known. As I prayed toward it, after talking with the family, I felt very strongly that I needed to present the Hope that is found in Jesus explicitly.

I did - you can read pretty much what I said in the post preceding this one. Since I was so pointed and let's face up to it - blunt - I worry that I turned people off rather than turning them toward Jesus. As I write this, I'm reminding myself that I had prayed for wisdom and wrote as I felt the Spirit directed me to. So I should be grateful that I delivered what I was given to do.

I guess I just don't want to be a reason for people to turn away. The gospel will do that sometimes, but I pray to make sure I don't.

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